A simple step-by-step process
A simple step-by-step process
It’s likely you’re already accommodating employees: Someone taking a college class needs to take a longer lunch break to listen to a lecture. The spouse of a deploying service member needs a little time off to deal with family issues. An employee who just had knee surgery gets a parking spot that’s closer to his office. Essentially, accommodation just means making some changes to meet the needs of your employees so they can perform their jobs well and keep working.
According to the ADA, an accommodation is any change in the work environment, or in the way things are customarily done, to help a person with a disability apply for a job, perform the duties of a job, or enjoy the benefits and privileges of employment.
The ADA requires employers to make a good faith effort to accommodate applicants and employees with known disabilities unless this causes undue hardship. The employer pays for and ultimately decides what accommodation will be put into place. But this decision is made after interacting with the employee to get their take on what is needed. The accommodation the employer puts into place must also be effective.
Several studies have shown that an ADA accommodation is often an investment rather than a cost. Fifty-eight percent of accommodations cost nothing at all. Of those that have a cost, the median amount was $500. Also, employees who were accommodated had better performance ratings, were less likely to leave the job, and had fewer absences. Accommodations have a good return-on-investment. It nearly always costs far more to lose an employee than to accommodate them.
In most cases, they just ask for one. Employees don’t need to use any special legal terms to request an accommodation. They just need to tell a supervisor, HR manager or other leader that they have an impairment that impacts their job. This statement should trigger the process of determining if an accommodation is needed and putting one into place. The employer may (but doesn’t have to) collect medical information about the disability to determine if the worker has a disability and what sort of accommodation might be considered. The Job Accommodation Network has a document that explains when and how to ask for medical documentation.
Though the employer makes the final decision about what accommodation will be used, the employee knows the most about their disability and their job tasks. So, it’s vital to communicate with the employee to find an accommodation that will work. The best accommodations are not always those that are most expensive or hi-tech. Often, simpler is better. Here are some examples:
The ADA requires employers to provide accommodations unless this causes undue hardship. What does this mean? Undue hardship is an “action requiring significant difficulty or expense.” There is no specific cost level that defines undue hardship for all businesses. Rather, it is considered on a case-by-case basis, based on the resources and operational needs of the business. As a small business, keep these points in mind:
Here are some examples of what you are NOT required to do when providing accommodations:
Work leave or reassignment sometimes might be needed as accommodation options. But these should be used as a last resort. When possible, using accommodations that keep the employee engaged in the job is better for the business and for the employee. For example, can technology be used to enable the employee to work at home full- or part-time? Can there be other changes in work location or equipment? Can marginal job functions be exchanged or eliminated? Finally, beware of “no fault” leave policies that automatically terminate employees who exceed a particular work leave limit. These policies have been found to violate the ADA.
Accommodations are easier to put in place if you take a step-by-step approach—and you can start today!
 DePaul University. (2007). Exploring the bottom line: A study of the costs and benefits of workers with disabilities (PDF); Job Accommodation Network. Accommodation and compliance: Low cost, high impact.